Worship for Sunday 28th January 2024, by Rev. Caroline Wickens

Call to Worship:

How amazing are the deeds of our God!

Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty.

His righteousness and justice never fail;

He is gracious and compassionate to all.
Come and worship!

Hymn: StF 346  Christ is the world’s light

  1. Christ is the world’s Light, he and no other;
    born in our darkness, he became our brother.
    If we have seen him, we have seen the Father:
    glory to God on high.

    2. Christ is the world’s Peace, he and no other;
    no man can serve him and despise his brother
    who else unites us, one in God the Father?
    Glory to God on high.

    3. Christ is the world’s Life, he and no other;
    sold once for silver, murdered here, our Brother –
    he who redeems us, reigns with God the Father:
    Glory to God on high.

    4. Give God the glory, God and no other;
    give God the glory, Spirit, Son and Father;
    give God the glory, God in man my brother:
    glory to God on high.

Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000), © Stainer & Bell 1969


God of all ages,
in you is found all wisdom, all wonder, all love.
Lord Jesus,
in you is found all healing, all truth, all goodness.
Holy Spirit,
in you is found all power, all cleansing, all enabling.
And so we lift our hearts to you
in awe, in reverence and in humility.

God of all truth and all wisdom,
of all authority and all power,
we come as your people,
to reflect on the words of your prophets,
to be inspired by the words and actions of your Son, Jesus,
to be challenged by the spirit of your laws,
to discern your will for us,
to offer you our prayers and praises,
and to grow closer in fellowship with you and our neighbours

God of truth, we bring to you those times when we have used cheap words to avoid costly action.
Forgive us and grant us your spirit of strength.
We bring to you those times when we have hidden behind the letter of the law

to avoid the challenge of the spirit of the law.
Forgive us and grant us your spirit of discernment.
We bring to you those times when we have disrespected the authority of those you have called to show us a new way.
Forgive us and grant us your spirit of wisdom.

Gracious God, you bless us with the gifts of forgiveness and compassion
and encourage us to turn away from our mistakes towards your love,
and we pray with that confidence that not our will be done but yours,
not our words be spoken but yours, not our authority be revealed but yours,
in all we think and do and say.

Reading: Deuteronomy 18:15 – 18

15 And Moses said, The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. 16 This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: ‘If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.’ 17 Then the Lord replied to me: ‘They are right in what they have said. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet  like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.

Hymn: StF 161   Speak, O Lord, as we come to you

  1. Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
    To receive the food of your holy word.
    Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
    Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
    That the light of Christ might be seen today
    In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
    Speak, O Lord, and fulfil in us
    All Your purposes, for Your glory.
  2. Teach us Lord full obedience,
    Holy reverence, true humility.
    Test our thoughts and our attitudes
    In the radiance of Your purity.
    Cause our faith to rise
    Cause our eyes to see,
    Your majestic love and authority.
    Words of power that can never fail;
    Let their truth prevail over unbelief.
  3. Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
    Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us.
    Truths unchanged from the dawn of time,
    That will echo down through eternity.
    And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises;
    And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us.
    Speak, O Lord, ’til your church is built
    And the earth is filled with Your glory.

Stuart Townend & Keith Getty Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music 

Reading: Mark 1:21 – 28

21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ 26 And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Reflection: Listening to those who speak with authority

Would Jesus have become a celebrity influencer if he had lived in the twenty-first century? Would he have had millions of Facebook followers and gone viral on TikTok? That’s one of the key ways that opinion is moulded in our own times, for good and bad. Those who are skilful enough use the Internet to project their lifestyle choices, their glamour and their star status, influencing politics, economics and global culture. Some are gifted leaders such as Barack Obama. Others are sportspeople, musicians, actors or people who are famous just because they are famous. The Internet gives the opportunity for people to project their image and have a major impact on the way others choose to live their lives.

Jesus spoke, and taught, with authority – he had the independence and originality of an author, a creator, moulding and sharing his own ideas. Like an influencer, he had the flair to put ideas together in ways which made a huge impact on his audience, and still do. The stories of the Good Samaritan, or the Prodigal Son, have all the freshness and visual power of a TikTok feed. Jesus had the self-confidence to put a new spin on answers to old questions. Which is the greatest commandment? Who is my neighbour? These were questions that others had answered before Jesus, but his replies stick in the mind because his stories are so vivid and engaging.

But there is more to his authority than striking images. Jesus draws on a deep well of experience and love for humanity which gives his teaching authenticity and integrity. Mark tells the story of the healing of the man with the unclean spirit – who knows what was the matter with him? He sets it in the middle of his account of Jesus’ teaching ‘with authority’. Jesus had compassion on this man who was in such need. He did not resent the interruption to his teaching, but paused, helped the man to a better life, and then continued to reveal God’s love. His influence was rooted and grounded in the strong foundation of loving commitment to share God’s healing power wherever it was needed.

For Jesus’ authority comes from God. Right at the end of his life, Moses foretold that one day, God would send another prophet who would speak as God commanded. Prophets came and went in Israel’s history, but they were still waiting for the prophet, the one Moses had expected. Christians believe that this promise has come true in Jesus. His authority, his influence, comes from his identity as the Son of God, his being and the Father’s woven together in the power of the Holy Spirit. The words he speaks are God’s words and their authority is God’s authority – no wonder his hearers were amazed!

So would Jesus have become a social influencer in 2024? How I wish he had that opportunity – imagine being able to follow his livestream as he taught with the authority which people saw in him all those years ago. But for Jesus, this would never have been enough. What is truly life-changing is the friendship and personal relationship he offers to all who choose to follow him as his disciples and who say ‘you are mine, and I am yours’.


Prayers for all in need

You are near to all who call on your name, O God:
come close to us,   
as we offer to you the pain of our world and the concerns of our hearts.

Defend us, good Lord:
from forgetting the greatness of your work in creation;
from failing to be joyful because of your generosity that sustains our lives;
from failing to see your image reflected in other people.

We pray for wonder to shape our actions and choices 
as we seek to serve you in the world.
Loving God:
Hear us and help us.

Defend us, good Lord:
from turning to strongmen and tyrants;
from easy answers to complex issues;
from false prophets and those who offer empty promises.

We pray for wisdom to shape our actions and choices 
as we seek to serve you in the world.
Loving God:
Hear us and help us.

Defend us, good Lord:
from putting our trust in money and possessions;
from constantly craving more and bigger and newer;
from over-consumption that damages our planet home.

We pray for simplicity to shape our actions and choices 
as we seek to serve you in the world.
Loving God:
Hear us and help us.

Defend us, good Lord: 
from fatigue that makes us turn our eyes away from long-running conflict across the Middle East, in Gaza and in Ukraine;
from ignoring the cries of hungry children and displaced people; 
from closing our hearts when our response is required.

We pray for perseverance to shape our actions and choices 
as we seek to serve you in the world.
Loving God:
Hear us and help us.

Defend us, good Lord:
from all that threatens us and disturbs our security in you;
from the darkness of despair at the brokenness of our world;
from our sickness and suffering and from anxiety for the pain of those we love,
remembering all who are in mental or physical pain today
especially those who are close to our hearts

We pray for peace to shape our actions and choices 
as we seek to serve you in the world. 
Loving God:
Hear us and help us.

Defend us, good Lord:
from fear when the shadow of the cross falls across our pathway;
from losing heart on the road that leads to life;
from neglecting the example of faithful witnesses to your love.

We pray for courage to shape our actions and choices 
as we seek to serve you in the world. 
Loving God:
Hear us and help us.

You are near to all who call on your name, O God:
come close to us and stay with us, 
today and always.

Hymn: StF 251 Jesus Christ is waiting

  1. Jesus Christ is waiting,
    Waiting in the streets;
    No one is his neighbour,
    All alone he eats.
    Listen, Lord Jesus,
    I am lonely too.
    Make me, friend or stranger,
    Fit to wait on you
  2. Jesus Christ is raging,
    Raging in the streets,
    Where injustice spirals
    And real hope retreats.
    Listen, Lord Jesus,
    I am angry too.
    In the Kingdom’s causes
    Let me rage with you.
  3. Jesus Christ is healing,
    Healing in the streets;
    Curing those who suffer,
    Touching those he greets.
    Listen, Lord Jesus,
    I have pity too.
    Let my care be active,
    Healing just like you.
  4. Jesus Christ is dancing,
    Dancing in the streets,
    Where each sign of hatred
    He, with love, defeats.
    Listen, Lord Jesus,
    I should triumph too.
    Where good conquers evil
    Let me dance with you.
  5. Jesus Christ is calling,
    Calling in the streets,
    ”Who will join my journey?
    I will guide their feet.”
    Listen, Lord Jesus,
    Let my fears be few.
    Walk one step before me;
    I will follow you

John Bell (b.1949) and Graham Maule (b.1958), © WGRG, Iona Community

Prayer for God’s blessing

May the God of peace sanctify us entirely;
and may our spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless
until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God, who calls us, is faithful, and will do this.

Prayers from re:worship, rootsontheweb, and the Church of Scotland’s Weekly worship.

CCLI no: 263530